What Is Conjunctivitis in Children?

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Conjunctivitis in children and new-borns is a condition where the thin membrane covering the inside of the eyelids and the whites of the eyes gets inflamed, making eyes look pink or red. In kids, it comes in different types depending on their age: for babies, there's newborn conjunctivitis, and for older kids, there's childhood conjunctivitis. Newborn conjunctivitis has a few types, including Inclusion Conjunctivitis, which is usually caused by a bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis, and Gonococcal Conjunctivitis, caused by a bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Then there's childhood conjunctivitis, which can occur from bacteria, viruses (like herpes), or allergies, and it's commonly found in nurseries.

The most important thing is recognising the symptoms and getting the right treatment, as this depends on what's causing it - whether it's bacteria, a virus, or allergies.


What is Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva - the membrane that lines the inside of the eyelids and covers the eyeball, resulting in the eye appearing pink or red. In children, the condition is categorised into two groups: new-born conjunctivitis and childhood conjunctivitis. Each group has different causes and treatments.


What Are Different Types Of New-born Conjunctivitis?

Inclusion Conjunctivitis

The most frequent type of bacterial infection is caused by Chlamydia trachomatis. It is characterised by red eyes, swollen eyelids, and fluid leakage from the eyelids. Usually, symptoms appear after 5 to 14 days from birth, and antibiotics are commonly prescribed as a treatment.


Chemical Conjunctivitis

Sometimes, new-born babies may develop this rare condition due to the use of eye drops that are used to prevent bacterial infection. This condition causes inflammation and redness in the eyes, and the symptoms usually persist for a few days. However, this type of conjunctivitis is generally harmless and does not require any treatment.


Gonococcal Conjunctivitis

Gonorrhoea is a type of bacteria that can cause severe conjunctivitis in new-born babies born to infected mothers during vaginal birth. This condition can be prevented by using eye drops in new-borns immediately after birth. Symptoms include redness in the eyes, swelling, and thick fluid discharge from the eyelids. These symptoms usually appear 2 to 5 days after birth, and treatment often involves administering intravenous antibiotics.


Infection From Other Bacteria

After the first week of life, new-borns may develop conjunctivitis due to infection by other bacteria. Symptoms may include redness, swelling, and drainage from the eyes. Treatment will depend on the type of bacteria that caused the infection and typically involves applying antibiotic drops or ointments to the eye, using warm compresses for the eye, and maintaining good hygiene when touching the infected eyes.


Childhood Conjunctivitis 

Conjunctivitis is a condition in which the conjunctiva, the thin, transparent layer that covers the white part of your eye, becomes swollen and infected. This is a prevalent problem in children that often spreads rapidly in places like nursuries or schools. Childhood conjunctivitis can be caused by bacteria, viruses (including the herpes virus), or allergies.


What Are the Symptoms of Conjunctivitis In A Child?

Conjunctivitis symptoms in children may include itchy and irritated eyes, eyelid swelling, conjunctival redness, light sensitivity, burning, sticky eyelids, clear fluid discharge from the eyes, sneezing, runny nose, stringy eye discharge, green drainage, ear infection, and crusty eyelid lesions. These symptoms can be similar to other health conditions, so it's important to have your child see a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis.


How Is Conjunctivitis Diagnosed In a Child?

The healthcare provider will ask you about your child's symptoms and their health history. Additionally, they may ask about your family's health history. Your child will then receive a physical examination. In some cases, a sample of the fluid leaking from the eye may be taken to confirm the cause of the infection.


How Is Conjunctivitis Treated In Children?

Treatment for your child's eye condition depends on the cause and symptoms. Bacterial infections may need antibiotic eye drops, while viral infections usually don't need treatment. Allergic reactions may require oral medicines or eye drops, and herpes infections may need treatment by an eye doctor. Be careful as the infection can spread by touching the affected eye or fluid from it. It's contagious for up to 48 hours after beginning treatment, so wash hands often and avoid touching the eyes.


When To Consult With a Doctor?

If you suspect that your child has conjunctivitis, it is advisable to take them to a GP. You should take your child to see a doctor if any of the following occurs: the infection persists for more than 3-4 days despite treatment, the skin around the eye or eyelid becomes swollen and painful, your child experiences vision problems, your child has a fever, is not feeding well or is lethargic.


What Home Remedies Are Useful In Conjunctivitis?

If one or both of your eyes are red and uncomfortable, it could be caused by allergic, viral, or bacterial conjunctivitis. Sometimes it's easy to determine what type of conjunctivitis you have, while other times only a doctor can diagnose the underlying problem. Viral conjunctivitis is similar to a common cold in the eye. There is no specific treatment for this virus, and you usually need to give it time to heal on its own. Without treatment, viral conjunctivitis should go away within one to two weeks.


Bacterial Conjunctivitis

Typically produces more mucus or pus than viral or allergic conjunctivitis. A doctor can prescribe antibiotics to treat bacterial conjunctivitis. To reduce the symptoms of bacterial or viral conjunctivitis, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen, use artificial tears to lubricate your eyes, and apply a warm, damp washcloth over your eyes for a few minutes. To create a warm compress, soak a clean washcloth in warm water, wring it out, and place it over your eyes until it cools. Repeat this several times a day or as often as you find comfortable. Always use a clean washcloth each time, and use a different washcloth for each eye if both eyes are infected. If your eyelids are sticking together, a warm washcloth can help loosen the dried mucus so you can open your eyes.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

If your conjunctivitis is caused by an allergic reaction, it is important to identify and stop the source of the allergy. Allergic conjunctivitis will persist as long as you are in contact with the allergen. Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious, and you can still go to work or school without infecting others. To alleviate the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis, you can take allergy medication or use allergy eye drops, apply a cool, damp washcloth over your eyes for a few minutes, and use artificial tears to lubricate your eyes.

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